Is this the Century of Indie Magazines in Cuba?
Online magazines flourish in 21st Century Cuba. But will they have a future?
After decades of strict state control, the 21st Century and new technology have arrived in Cuba and signaled a radical difference, as far as independent magazines are concerned.
Although the Cuban Catalog of Serial Publications includes hundreds of official newspapers and magazines, in practice—due to the economic crisis of the 1990s that brought the island to a standstill—few are still published regularly and circulation is minimal. They are analog ghosts from a printed copy of the 20th Century.
However, the Esquife [Skiff] project, run by the poet Andrés Mir and the designer Hanna Chomenko, ushered Cuba into the new millennium. Esquife was an email newsletter that, thanks to its popularity among young writers, ended up as a website attached to the Ministry of Culture, and was capable of paying a salary to its contributors. Its most non-conformist competition was Diáspora(s) [Diasporas], which was run between 1998 and 2002 by the essayist Rolando Sánchez Mejías. Since 2003, Diáspora(s) has inspired the controversial digital dossiers of Cacharro(s) [Pots and Pans], coordinated by the narrator Jorge Alberto Aguiar Díaz.
The boom that followed has comprised countless literary styles and digital formats: 33 y 1/3 (Raúl Flores), Des-Liz (Lizabel Mónica), La Caja de la China [The China Box] (Lien Carrazana), Bifronte [Palindrome] (Luis Felipe Rojas and Michael H. Miranda), Consenso [Consensus] (Reinaldo Escobar), La Rosa Blanca [The White Rose] (Henry Constantín), Convivencia [Coexistence] (Dagoberto Valdés), The Revolution Evening Post (Ahmel Echevarría, Jorge E. Lage and myself). Other new publications include specialist fanzines for rock music (Scriptorium) and science fiction (MiNatura), websites that are almost like magazines—Ver Cuba [See Cuba], La Isliada—and collections of blogs such as Bloggers Cuba, Havana Times, Observatorio Crítico [Critical Observatory], and Voces Cubanas [Cuban Voices].
With the proliferation of these new publications, many freelance editors are under pressure from the police. Others have emigrated and carry on their projects as virtual bridges between the island and their exile. But these are personal endeavors with minuscule budgets, and as long as the Cuban State prohibits the commercialization of any non-state run magazine, such editorial enthusiasm will always be at risk of suffocation. The future (of Cuban magazines) is being defined today.
Translation: Alex Higson